Well, meetings, really, over the past weekend. I couldn’t resist the albeit rather random reference.
Dene Olding reprised his 80th anniversary speech. The >20 and >10 years’ subscription numbers were 200 and 250.
The program was a luxurious one: Stephen Kovacevich playing Beethoven 4 (my favourite Beethoven concerto) and Strauss Alpine Symphony.
I had had a discomforting morning in court and brooding over this interrupted my afternoon nap. Maddeningly I was not in a fit state to really enjoy this program as much as it deserved. I will have to listen to the broadcast on 7 March and hope that, patched together with my memories of the live performance, a fair impression can be retrieved. Even in my damaged state, however, I could feel what I think of as Mr Ashkenazy’s trade-mark warmth of sound which he drew from the orchestra in the Strauss.
The new principal trumpet, David Elton (here from 2009 with the WASO), featured very promisingly. The orchestra still doesn’t appear to have announced a second principal cello and there is no sign of a replacement for the mysteriously and rather unceremoniously departed co-concertmaster, Michael Dauth.
At interval I broke my usual habits and went to the northern foyer with my neighbours for the night. I’m a southern foyer kind of fellow usually. Company was grander than I’m accustomed to, including a judge. I wonder if that was as awkward for him as it was for me?
On Saturday afternoon, D and I went to Thyestes at Carriageworks. This has become a seriously funky venue. The play is very loosely based around the play by Seneca (they say “the younger” but I always think of him as Clifford Grant in the AO production of The Coronation of Poppea, though he cannot have been as old as he looked on stage) and deals with one of those revenge backstories from Greek mythology which includes somebody being served up his sons for dinner. Apparently this sort of thing happened all the time those days.
I say very loosely based because most of the plot line of the play was conveyed by captions between scenes. What we saw on stage was then what the characters (updated to the present in a rather non-specific way) did or talked about before or in between the decisive moments – rather like the shepherd with his sheep in Breughel’s painting of the fall of Icarus. There was a virtuoso performance by Mark Winter as the particularly psychotic Atreus – in this version very much the nastier of the two brothers. I suppose this was good theatre, but it was also rather exhausting. Atreus reminded me rather of a particularly unpleasant client I had a few years ago in one of my rare forays into family law. I don’t know that I need to pay money for that.
On Saturday night D and I went to the new OA production of Marriage of Figaro. This was the one which was postponed a couple of years ago in the face of financial anxieties. At the time I misunderstood the concern. I thought the anxiety related to the expense of the new production, but now I wonder if it was a concern that a too-daring production might put off the punters in a year when the company needed a sure-fire hit.
Judging from the state of the house (some emptyish patches, and that on a Saturday night), Benedict Andrews’ production may have put some off. It’s a modern one, purportedly set in a “gated community” – though there’s not really much in the action to make that plain other than an opening image of the Count watching a series of surveillance video images on a wide-screen TV.
I didn’t find the modernity a problem per se, or at least not necessarily so, but the emphasis on the threat that the count’s power posed meant that Michael Lewis’s count had a perpetual scowl. Shouldn’t the count also sometimes be just a bit silly and vain? His threats don’t really need to be overt. Other touches also seemed to make the point more darkly than the music suggests – such as when Cherubino was manhandled into his military uniform by two burly security guards. The last act, in a set devoid of darkness mystery or the moon, strained credulity even more than usually.
Of course, the lesser arias – which do not advance the plot but on the contrary retard it – were left out. I guess we were lucky that BA found some dramatic use for the overture. The point of the dictation aria (when the Countess dictates a letter to Susanna and she says the final words of each line as she is writing it) was entirely lost in the direction.
There’s a reasonable selection of images, set to Cherubino’s song, here. D doesn’t like women in trouser roles. I thought Domenica Matthews – thighs aside – made quite a convincing boy, though her vocal tone had a peculiar edge to it. Someone else has commented that she is OA’s best boy since Suzanne Johnstone in Hansel und Gretel. Even D makes an honourable exception for SJ as Hans.
Elvira Fatykhova, previously a bit of a one-role wonder as OA’s quasi-permanent Violetta, branched out as the countess. She does not have a big voice although it is expressive and clearly projected – there is more power above the stave which did not get much of a chance in this role. On the ladies’ side it’s really Susanna’s night, and Taryn Fiebig rose to this well. It is worth trying to get there before 6 March to catch Joshua Bloom as the “A” cast Figaro.
Graeme McFarlane was the lawyer, Curzio. He affected a stutter (“his m-m-mother!”…”his f-f-f-father!”), which seems to be a performance tradition (the stuttering lawyer) which has come and gone in various OA productions. I have always wondered and now thanks to the internet have confirmed that this tradition goes back as far as the original production, where Michael Kelly, who played both Basilio and Curzio, took the credit of carrying it, against Mozart’s initial request, into the Act II finale.
Late on Sunday afternoon I went for a swim at Wylie’s Baths at Coogee. This is always a treat and this summer the furry growth on the seaweed which for a while was rather off=putting seems to have gone away. There were some bigger-than-usual fish there which gave me a bit of a shock when I first spotted them.
On my way out I ran into Gw, a colleague from over 20 years ago, on his way in. For about 15 minutes, we caught up on about 20 years of news and gossip – only scratching the surface, really. The pool was about to close and I was worried that I was depriving him of his swim. Not so. Gw has a key and can swim at all hours.
I had thought this system had been brought to an end about a year ago. I’m glad to see it has been restored.